Sunday Talk – In the Spirit of Uni-Tea

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Ever since Sarah Palin opened her stupid tweet hole a few weeks ago to refudiate the not-a-mosque being constructed near Ground Zero, the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from the right has grown increasingly heated.

And it’s not just the usual suspects. Even the once respectable Anti-Defamation League has weighed in against teh Muslims.

Can’t we all just get along?


Open Thread and Diary Rescue

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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This evening’s Rescue Rangers are mem from somerville, grog, rexymeteorite, claude, shayera, and vcmvo2, with watercarrier4diogenes at the wheel of the Editmobile, careening through the streets trying to keep up with Lisbeth Salander

Tonight’s diaries travel from analysis of our tragically not-wonderful ‘traditional media’ (™Kos) to the dreams and needs of our entire planet’s most important resource, its children, with a couple of stops along the way that are important in their own right.

jotter once again astounds us with his statistical (NO, NOT ‘sadistical!, no matter how hard it is for you to understand it 8^) ) High Impact Diaries: July 30, 2010 and carolita follows with a mesmerizing Top Comments 7-31-10 – Dr. Angel Edition.

Enjoy and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread (even if you’re the author! Here’s where that’s actually appreciated). And, of course, since it’s an open thread, PLAY NICE, OK? 8^)


SEGO: Across the Briny Deep

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Wait, let me dig through the drawer. I know I have it someplace. Here it is in nice bold letters — my degree in aquatic biology. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve always loved the sea. Loved the salt spray in my face and the song of the whales and the… what’s that? That little word after aquatic biology? Don’t pay attention to that. Not important. Back to those whales, you know when I was studying, I… I don’t know what you mean, there’s nothing important there. Sheesh, okay. So it says “Aquatic Biology (nonmarine).”

As it happens I earned my degree from Murray State University, which has a very nice station on Kentucky Lake, but is about as far from salt water as you can be in this country. Of course, that’s not strictly true. You could be in St. Louis, where I moved after college, and where I’ve been parked for the last three decades. So the truth is I am not, nor have I ever been an expert on anything about the sea. I’ve never studied whales, or sharks, or coral reefs. Never crewed a tall ship. Or short ship. The truth is, I’ve never even tested my mettle at the helm of a Sunfish skimming across a pond on a windy day.

Except in my dreams.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester

Watching this gangly kid getting rowed out to his ship you can see right away that he’s a poor fit for the world he’s entering. He’s too old to be a midshipman. Completely out of his element. Heck, he even gets seasick while the ship is still at anchor. But give him another twenty pages and you’ll see why he’s going to make it — and why Horatio Hornblower has been popular since 1937. It’s not that he’s the most daring man in the Navy. Instead, Hornbower is reserved and thoughtful. He’s the guy who is quietly one step ahead of everyone else in his thinking — and ready to act not out of raw courage, but from a necessity that no one else has yet put together. This book was not the first written. The series actually started with Hornblower already a captain. It was over a decade later that Forester went back to create this tale of Hornblower’s first days in the service (don’t bother trying to put all the books in sequence, I’ll tell you that there are gaps, overlaps, and contradictions). There are also some flaws in Forester’s presentation of the British Navy during the Napoleonic era. But who cares. The emphasis here is on story and character — which is what I want from a book. For me, this is Hornblower at his best. As he progresses through the ranks, his opinions become more fixed, his attitude more blunt. In this book, Hornblower is still raw enough to make plenty of mistakes — and sharp enough to learn from them.

HMS Suprise by Patrick O’Brian

Frankly, I don’t like Jack Aubrey, the captain of O’Brian’s long running sea series. I think Aubrey is an ass at the outset, and just as big an ass in the final book. I don’t mind a book with a flawed main character, but Aubrey is someone I’d rather punch than follow, no matter how many victories he runs up at sea. So when I tell you I still read all the books in the series, you’ll understand that despite my problems with Lucky Jack, there has to be something here that kept me coming back. In the case of O’Brian that something is authenticity. The ships, the situations, the actions at sea and the political wrangling on shore all show the peerless job the author did in recreating this world. I won’t kid you — I’m a Hornblower fan to the end, but when I need something of this period for my own work, I don’t hesitate to treat O’Brian’s work with the authority I’d give an encyclopedia.

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
When I saw the previews for the first Pirates of the Caribbean, I was convinced that someone was making a film from this book. As it turns out, that will be Pirates movie #4. However the film turns out, the book is a series of adventures on sea and on land that are both colorful and chilling. Powers’ premise is magic is destroyed by iron. In Europe, where iron making has gone on for millennia, the last bits of magic are all but gone. But in the Caribbean and along the wild costs of America, the world is very, very strange indeed. The story moves from piracy on the seas to a bizarre trek through Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, and the action through the whole book is enough to remind you of a deck pitching in a storm.

Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch
Finally, how about a sea story in which there is no sea? The UNS Hibernia is not an ocean-going vessel, instead it’s a massive starship delivering colonists to a planet in a voyage that takes over a year. For Midshipman Nicholas Seafort, the early part of the journey is about learning his place on board the ship — a ship whose social structure is very consciously modeled after the British Navy of Hornblower and Aubrey. Seafort takes his lumps (literally) in the wardroom, and has barely begun his career when a devastating accident takes out a good portion of those on board the Hibernia, including all of the ship’s senior officers. Left to command a damaged ship filled with hundreds of terrified passengers, Seafort faces tough decisions if there is any chance of bringing Hibernia to the end of its journey. Feintuch clearly modeled not just his space navy, but the structure of his book on Hornblower’s adventures, and at times it has feel of a set of connected shorts rather than a satisfying whole. But overall this is a romp with enough mutiny and mayhem to satisfy any old salt.


Burning the Quran

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Why would anyone want to burn a book? Especially a book considered holy by over a billion people. Just when you thought the American Taliban couldn’t go any lower, they did:

In protest of what it calls a religion “of the devil,” a nondenominational church in Gainesville, Florida, plans to host an “International Burn a Quran Day” on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The Dove World Outreach Center says it is hosting the event to remember 9/11 victims and take a stand against Islam. With promotions on its website and Facebook page, it invites Christians to burn the Muslim holy book at the church from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times,” Pastor Terry Jones told CNN’s Rick Sanchez earlier this week.

It’s astonishing that there are people in America who are so far gone in their islamophobia that they actually would celebrate 9/11 with a book burning.

There is no question there is the direct intention to be confrontational. Pastor Jones is honest about his hatred for Muslims. And, let’s be clear, he has the Constitutional right to burn books as a way of making a political statement. What, however, does it say about the character of people who feel that the best way to express their views is the stamping out of all conflicting views?

Burning the Quran isn’t going to persuade anybody and will most surely offend a great deal of people in this country and around the world. It certainly won’t be a shining example of the central point of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

Luke 6:31


Help Help I’m being repressed!

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Thanks to you guys I’m now infamous enough to be personally attacked on Fox Nation over this post. Reportedly by Steve Milloy no less. And thanks to News Corpse we learn that Milloy et al employ the same level of careful, precise analysis as when tricking the public about climate change for the corporate clients:

He repeatedly refers to Steven Andrew as Steven Alexander. Secondly, Andrew was writing this column for The Examiner .. so it can hardly be attributed to Daily Kos, as both Fox Nation and Milloy did. Thirdly, Milloy falsely claimed that the posting was removed. In fact, it was just edited to satisfy Milloy’s tender sensitivities. Fourthly, Andrew never advocated either euthanasia or suicide for Milloy or anyone else. He merely invoked a humorous reference to the iconic film Soylent Green.

If Milloy and friends really want to crack down on violent rhetoric, they might check a network and a political movement a little closer to home. Where "jokes" and not-so-funny references to strangling or choking people to death, inciting deadly shooting sprees, or national politicians celebrating blowing up occupied buildings are regular events. The list of documented violent rhetoric and calls for violence going out to millions of viewers, readers, and thousands upon thousands of paranoid gun-toting maniacs coming from Milloy’s side of the aisle, indeed often from his own news network, go on and on and on right through to this very day:

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton received hundreds of threats at her court offices within hours of her ruling last week on Arizona’s tough and controversial immigration law. "She has been inundated," said U.S. Marshal David Gonzales, indicating his agents are taking some seriously.

But Milloy and company conveniently ignore all that, naturally, and instead somehow finds — or perhaps feigns — great offense at an offhand reference to a science fiction movie and a hypothetical future corporation that turns volunteers into food. On a website that gets a few thousand hits on a good day. That’s telling. Methinks he doth protest too much.


National Organization for Marriage: marriage equality = slave trade

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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For those who may not have seen the news, the bigots at National Organization for Marriage–the group most prominently opposed to marriage equality and the main sponsors of Proposition 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine–have been on tour. They’ve been going around the country in an archetypical bus tour trying to promote their special brand of outmoded discrimination. As could have been expected, the tour has been an epic boatload of fail. At many stops of the tour, marriage equality supporters have equaled or outnumbered those who show up to hate on gay people.

NOM has been tweeting statements from spokesman Brian Brown during the course of the tour–and while a variety of them have been offensive in a lot of ways, this one probably takes the cake:

“It is 1972 for marriage. This is the same as the time as before Roe v. Wade. . . . What if William Wilberforce listened to those telling him not to bring his religion into the public square?”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. William Wilberforce was a British member of Parliament who was best known for his religiously based opposition to the slave trade, and was instrumental in outlawing slavery throughout the British empire in the mid-19th century. And in invoking the ghost of William Wilberforce, NOM has just compared opposition to bigotry against gays to…supporting the slave trade. Now it’s not quite full Godwin, but by the time you’re talking about the slave trade, you’re getting pretty damned close.

That’s bad enough. But what’s actually just as interesting is in this little snippet, Brian Brown is making an argument that is expressly theocratic. By devolving to a rationale that is based simply on religion in the public square, NOM is essentially admitting that theocratic values are the only reason to oppose marriage equality (truth be told, if you had seen their closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, such an admission should come as no surprise).

But when it comes down to it, what Brian Brown is actually doing here is making a unwitting yet fundamental attack on the value of Christian morality. The implication of Brown’s statement regarding Wilberforce’s motivations is that if Wilberforce had not been so religiously inclined, he would not have pursued his opposition to the slave trade. Does Brian Brown really think that your average Christian believes that slavery is wrong because God said so, and that because in their view God says that gay marriage is bad, it has to be opposed with equal vigor? Is Brian Brown really suggesting that regular believers are so rigidly doctrinaire that they see no nuance?

If anyone needs a lesson in Christian values, it’s obviously Brian Brown.


Book reviews: Race, class, economics and destiny

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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It’s taken me a while to catch up, but there have been two excellent books looking at race, class, economic status and destiny in the past six months. The first reviewed here is less formal, an excellent memoir/study in personal stories, and the second is more academic in nature, an updated tenth anniversary edition of a book that looks at wealth transmission across generations in disadvantaged communities. Both are excellent, thought-provoking resources for discussion and further inquiry.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
By Wes Moore
Hardcover, 256 pages, .00
Spiegel & Grau
April 2010

Money quote:

This is the story of two boys living in Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name: Wes Moore. One of us is free and has experienced things that he never even knew to dream about as a kid. The other will spend every day until his death behind bars for an armed robbery that left a police officer and father of five dead. The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his. Our stories are obviously specific to our two lives, but I hope they will illuminate the crucial inflection points in every life, the sudden moments of decision where our paths diverge and our fates are sealed. It’s unsettling to know how little separates each of us from another life altogether.

Author: First-time author, former Army combat veteran, youth advocate, former special assistant to Secretary of State Condeloeezza Rice as a White House Fellow, speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, investment professional.

Basic premise: Two African American men. Same name. Born around the same time, living in the same city, of roughly the same class. Ultimately, radically different lives. One imprisoned for life, the other a respected professional. Moore explores his life story and that of his doppelganger, hoping to tease out the reasons why some succeed and some fail in very similar circumstances.

Readability/quality: Smooth reading, nice “plot” development if one can say that about non-fiction (you can, regarding memoirs, in my view). Good character description and thoughtful consideration of difficult topics–nature versus nurture writ large in all its complexity.

Who should read it: Fans of memoirs and sociological explorations for laypeople, as well as anyone interested in race and class issues, urban settings, influence of family and peers on personal outcomes.

Bonus quote:

… when I finish my story, the question that comes up the most is the one that initiated this quest: “What made the difference?”

And the truth is that I don’t know. The answer is elusive. People are so wildly different, and it’s hard to know when genetics or environment or just bad luck is decisive. As I’ve puzzled over the issue, I’ve become convinced that there are some clear and powerful measures that can be taken during this crucial time in a young person’s life. Some of the ones that helped me come to mind, from finding strong mentors to being entrusted with responsibilities that forced me to get serious about my behavior. There is no one thing that leads people to move in one direction or another. I think the best we can do is give our young people a chance to make the best decisions possible by providing them with the information and the tools and the support they need.

Moore took a subject that could easily veer off into self-indulgence–his personal history and that of someone similar–and made it larger than himself. Weaving his own story and the other Wes Moore’s together, he is able to draw attention to the places of similarities (missing fathers, early rebellions, overworked mothers) and places of difference (strong and involved grandparents, private school). But the parallels and divergences become about so much more than just these two men; the author’s luck in finding mentors, and in finding his own responsibility and strength in military experience outline the importance of structure, peers and adults who are committed to guiding the next generation. Both stories are, in every sense of the phrase, very American stories, with tragedy, challenge and success in our system often pegged to very small steps and missteps along the way.

***

Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America
By Dalton Conley
University of California Press: Berkeley, CA
Softcover updated reprint, 217 pages, .95
Tenth anniversary edition

Money quote:

In 1865, at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans owned 0.5 percent of the total worth of the United States. This statistic is not surprising; most black Americans had been slaves up to that point. However, by 1990, a full 135 years after the abolition of slavery, black Americans owned a meager 1 percent of total wealth. In other words, almost no progress has been made in terms of property ownership. African Americans may have won “title” to their own bodies and to their labor, but they have gained ownership over little else.

Author: Dean of Social Sciences at New York University, Conley has spent his career focusing on class and intergenerational economic patterns. Other books include Honky, a memoir of growing up white in a predominantly minority neighborhood in the 1970s; The Starting Gate: Birth Weight and Life Chances; and The Pecking Order: A Bold New Look at How Family and Society Determine Who We Become.

Basic premise: We’re asking the wrong question when we’re limiting inquiries about economic disparities and race to income and earnings only. What matters, says Conley, at least as much as salary is the ability to amass assets across generations. And there is ample evidence that historical and current policies in America penalize minorities in this area in subtle, yet devastating ways. This edition is updated from 10 years ago when it first was released, with a new introduction that looks at what has changed (or, more sadly and accurately, what has not) since initial publication.

Readability/quality: Free of jargon yet grounded in research. Charts and graphs with strong clarifying summaries make this a relatively easy read.

Who should read it: Anyone interested in delving into the policy behind race, class, economics, education and intergenerational inheritance issues.

Bonus quote:

Herein lie the two motivating questions of this study. First, why does this wealth gap exist and persist over and above income differences? Second, does this wealth gap explain racial differences in areas such as education, work, earnings, welfare, and family structure? In short, this book examines where race per se really matters in the post-civil rights era and where race simply acts as a stand-in for that dirty word of American society: class. The answers to these questions have important implications for the debate over affirmative action and for social policy in general.

Accumulating wealth and transmitting it across generations seems like a no-brainer for explaining many disparities in our society, yet most research that looks at why minorities continue to end up at the bottom of the social and economic ladder seem to focus on education, occupation and income in the contemporary generation. Conley makes a very strong case that the roots of many of socio-economic problems experienced by the African American community are based in wealth transmission problems. He also teases out where class and race diverge, and where they overlap as lower-income Americans of every stripe try to catch hold of the American Dream, which for those at the bottom seems to recede more and more each year. Highly recommended as a book to keep on the shelf as permanent reference and ammo against those who would argue that there is something in transmitted black culture–not economics–that creates hurdles for moving into the middle class.


Obama: Republicans holding small businesses "hostage"

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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President Barack Obama on Saturday accused Republicans of holding American small businesses “hostage to politics” after Republican senators refused to back a billion small-business lending package.

Midday Open Thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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This thread will not yield. The Gentleman is out of order and is correct in sitting down.

  • The Krazy Kims, acting up once again, as the North Korean soccer team was publicly humiliated in a six-hour ordeal:

    The entire squad was forced onto a stage at the People’s Palace of Culture and subjected to criticism from Pak Myong-chol, the sports minister, as 400 government officials, students and journalists watched.

    The players were subjected to a “grand debate” on July 2 because they failed in their “ideological struggle” to succeed in South Africa, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media reported.

  • Hilarity from CA-03 and its incumbent Republican, Dan Lungren, who was pulled over for speeding in the middle of a radio interview:

    “Uh, uh, I have to get off the phone just a moment here. … I’m sorry, I’m talking with a police officer here,” Lungren told the hosts of KFBK Morning News just after being introduced on the air.

    Lungren, who was on his way to his Washington office from his Alexandria, Va.-area home, quickly explained that he had just been pulled over for driving “probably just slightly over the speed limit” as he was chatting behind the wheel (he said his phone was in his lap).

    The officer could be heard asking Lungren to get off the phone — “Can you hang up the phone sir? … You need to hang that up.”

    Even worse for Dan Lungren: His red-to-blue Democratic opponent Ami Bera has outraised him for four straight quarters and just released a site attacking him for circumventing ethics rules. This is a race to watch.

  • This can’t be said enough, because it’s an unheralded success story of this administration:

    The telltale numbers for grading the auto rescue now are the first-quarter profits posted by GM and Chrysler while overall industry sales were still rotten — compared with the horrific losses in pre-rescue years when people were buying cars like crazy.

    These are stunning results. Obama is right to celebrate them. We all should.

    Republicans, though? They would have been happy to see the American automobile industry fold if it ensured Obama would be a one-term President, because they don’t care about this country.

  • What does it say about the current state of the country when sweeping reforms to the offshore drilling industry can only pass by a thin party-line vote?


Saturday Hate Mail-a-palooza: Netroots Nation edition

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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The crew over at Netroots Nation got some wingnut attention last week. Beck’s and Limbaugh’s retrogrades responded. See several of them below the fold.